Rotorua is the birthplace of New Zealand tourism with the famed pink and white terraces considered the eighth wonder of the natural world.
Unfortunately the Terraces were reclaimed by Mount Tarawera when it erupted late in the 19th century. The Maori people who lived near Tarawera Mountain faced many changes during the nineteenth century. Early in the 19th century missionaries came to spread the message of Christianity.
Pioneer missionary Seymour Mills Spencer, and his wife Ellen, built a mission station at Kariri (Galilee) in 1843, later moving to the more fertile valley of Te Wairoa where an English styled village was established.
Early visitors to the Pink and White Terraces stayed with missionaries. Governor Grey’s visit in 1849 helped spread the fame of the terraces and the “thermal wonderland” to the far-away Victorian world.
The Pink & White terraces
The glistening terraces formed near Mount Tarawera on the shores of Lake Rotomahana’s silica-rich waters, warmed by the magma below.
Cascading into remote Lake Rotomahana, the beautiful silica terraces attracted people from all over the world. Visitors travelled by steamer to Tauranga, taking a bridle track to Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua. A coach trip to Te Wairoa, a two-hour canoe journey and finally a walk over the narrow isthmus separating the swampy shores of Lake Rotomahana from Lake Tarawera took them to the foot of the fabled terraces.
Te Tarata - the white terraces
Te Tarata, which means the `tattooed rock’, covered three hundred hectares and tumbled to the lake from a height of 30 metres, fanning to a frontage of 240 metres and covering seven acres.
At the base, where the terraces disappeared into the lake, the height and distance between terraces could be measured in millimetres. The higher up the greater the distance between them, those near the top being around 3.5 metres high.
otukaparangi - the pink terraces
Otukapuarangi, which means `fountain of the clouded sky’, was slightly smaller.
The steps gradually rose to the crater platform where three one metre deep basins were filled with warm, clear blue water making superb bathing places.
The Pink Terrace was wider at the top than the White Terrace, narrowing to 23 metres on the lakeshore.
Victorian travellers recorded their experience in a rich legacy of art, photographs and words.
Writer Anthony Trollope enjoyed a bath in one of the pools of the Pink Terrace in 1874: “In the bath, when you strike your chest against it, it is soft to the touch, you press yourself against it and it is smooth…..The baths are shell-like in shape, like vast open shells, the walls of which are concave and the lips ornamented in a thousand forms.”